MUC4 and MUC5AC are highly specific tumour-associated mucins in biliary tract cancer.


Alterations in epithelial mucin expression are associated with carcinogenesis, but there are few data in biliary tract cancer (BTC). In pancreatic malignancy, MUC4 is a diagnostic and prognostic tumour marker, whereas MUC5AC has been proposed as a sensitive serological marker for BTC. We assessed MUC4 and MUC5AC expression in (i) prospectively collected bile and serum specimens from 72 patients with biliary obstruction (39 BTC) by real-time reverse transcriptase-PCR (qPCR) and western blot analysis, and (ii) 79 archived biliary tissues (69 BTC) by immunohistochemistry. In bile, MUC4 protein was detected in 27% of BTC and 29% of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) cases, but not in other benign and malignant biliary diseases (P<0.01 and P=0.06). qPCR revealed a 1.9-fold increased MUC4 mRNA expression in BTC patients' bile compared with benign disease. In archived tissues, MUC4 protein was detected in 37% of BTC but in none of the benign samples (P=0.03). In serum, MUC5AC was found exclusively in BTC and PSC sera (44% and 13%, respectively; P<0.001 for BTC vs non-BTC) and correlated negatively with BTC survival. Biliary MUC4 and serum MUC5AC are highly specific tumour-associated mucins that may be useful in the diagnosis and formulation of therapeutic strategies in BTC.

  • Adiguzel Z
  • Andreola F
  • Batra SK
  • Deheragoda M
  • Loh A
  • Matull WR
  • Pereira SP
  • Qureshi U
  • Swallow DM
PubMed ID
Appears In
Br J Cancer, 2008, 98 (10)